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The Limburg education and business community has issued a warning letter about the future of regional education. The signatories call for measures to guarantee the quality of education and strengthen the labor market. Without appropriate action, an economic contraction of nearly 1 billion euros and the loss of 4,500 jobs is imminent, according to the letter. The letter stresses the importance of international orientation and calls for a review of the law on internationalization. There is an urgent need for structural funding for programs around “Lifelong Development” and improved public transport infrastructure to neighboring countries.

The warning letter, sent to the education minister and parliament, does not stand alone. It is a response to the ‘Internationalization in Balance’ bill, which seeks to regulate the number of international students in the Netherlands. Last month, the Education Council called for a thorough review of this bill. The bill has far-reaching implications for the Limburg region, where dependence on international talent and cooperation with business are essential to the economic and social climate.

The letter states that if all undergraduate courses at Maastricht University and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences have to be offered in Dutch, this could result in a loss of about 4,500 jobs. According to research firm Panteia, this would mean an economic decline for the Limburg economy of nearly 1 billion euros.


The bill has received strong criticism from the business community and educational institutions. According to MKB-Nederland, the proposed steering instruments and language policy are not effective enough and may have negative consequences for the Netherlands’ position as a knowledge country. In particular, there is concern about the potentially limiting effect of the Dutch language policy, which could affect foreign-language bachelor programs and thus reduce the country’s attractiveness to international talent.

In addition, the employers’ organization VNO-NCW emphasizes the economic impact of international students. They argue that the Netherlands is a “net educator,” with far more international students coming to the country than Dutch students going abroad. More than a third of international students continue to work in the country after their studies, making a significant economic contribution, especially in shortage sectors such as ICT, education, and engineering.

Financial implications

The financial implications of the influx of international students are substantial. Analyses show that the Netherlands earns a net average of 16,000 euros from an EU college student, and for non-EU students, this rises to 96,000 euros for university students. These figures are based on the students’ contribution to the Dutch economy, both during and after their studies.

However, it is unclear over what period these net returns were calculated. These calculations are complex and depend on several factors, such as the ‘stay rate’ – the percentage of students who continue to work in the Netherlands after completing their studies – and the sectors in which they are employed. Further clarification of the methodology used should help to better understand the true economic impact of international students.


The University of Groningen has also raised concerns about the bill. With 122,287 international students, representing 15% of all students in the Netherlands, the university fears for its position and autonomy. The proposed measures are seen as a threat to the university’s ability to contribute to the Dutch knowledge economy.

Minister Dijkgraaf (education and science) proposes to offer two-thirds of standard bachelor’s degrees in Dutch, with room for up to one-third in another language. This would represent a fundamental shift for universities with a strong international focus and could reduce the attractiveness of the Netherlands for international students.

Regional differences

In their letter, the Limburg organizations stress the region’s uniqueness. With a 24% border with the Netherlands and a 76% border with foreign countries, there is a strong need to remain internationally oriented. “This is essential to increasing the quality of life in the region,” they said.

They call for tailored laws and regulations so educational institutions can continue attracting international talent to address labor market shortages. This is coupled with calls for better public transportation infrastructure in and out of the region, enhancing mobility and international cooperation.